Maintaining Relevance

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“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?” ~ Satchel Paige

At a recent professional conference a keynote invited those present to publicly share what they feared. A colleague in her late 60’s responded “losing relevance.”

What would your response have been?

As a trailing-edge boomer, I cross paths with many people who are thinking about “retirement.” Note I said thinking about, not necessarily planning for it. What I find fascinating is that, more and more, those giving intentional thought to active lifestyle change are open to doing something besides playing board games or painting (not to disparage either). They seek increased engagement.

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I have yet to hear anyone at this life stage say they want to be bored. Or to become insignificant. Most people want to create and strengthen meaningful connections and to broaden their community. They have the energy and drive to explore and effect change; they’re just unsure what to do next.

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For those interested in doing something entirely new, the possibilities are boundless – often limited only by their own beliefs and stories. For those open to discovering and experiencing something unfamiliar, here are five popular gigs that “retirees” are stepping into and enjoying:

  • Tour Guide Operator – allows a coupling of personal travel interests with social interaction and exercise
  • Virtual Assistant – as the title implies, the work can be done virtually and you get to determine what assistance you provide
  • Uber Driver – an opportunity to meet new people, see new vistas, and you define your personal workload
  • Peace Corp Volunteer – seven percent of volunteers are aged 50+. A new adventure with a humanitarian focus where you can share accumulated wisdom and experience, often benefiting the less fortunate
  • Tutor – anyone, of any age. People love to learn. Sometimes they simply need another caring individual to help them navigate new subject matter.

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What you choose to do next could easily keep you pertinent. It need not be a complex undertaking. A willingness to play in some initial uncertainty might be the very stimulation you seek… maybe it could become vastly rewarding.

There are numerous ways in which to maintain one’s relevance. And not just as “retirement” approaches.  Here are three to consider:

  1. Stay curious. Welcome learning and acquire knowledge any way you can. Share your discoveries with others. In doing so, you show you are willing to try new things, even (gasp!) methods considered outside the box.
  2. Meet new people. Negative friends drain us. Positive friends propel us forward. Our possibilities can be limited by our current ‘network.’ Rejuvenating your network is an important part of staying relevant.
  3. Get your hearing checked. Seriously. Not being able to hear potentially puts you out of touch with people. As we age we tend to deny natural loss of hearing. Eventually younger people shut out the hearing challenged and move conversations elsewhere. One must hear to remain relevant.

Which Are You: 49% or 51%?

Jennifer Marchetti

Jennifer Marchetti

“A lifestyle is what you pay for; a life is what pays you.” ~ Thomas Leonard

In early 2014, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate (BH&GRE) conducted a National Survey of baby boomers to learn their retirement strategies, aspirations, and motivations. 49% of the respondents who felt more confident about achieving an ideal retirement lifestyle, cited their top factor for feeling confident as having a retirement lifestyle plan.

This two-minutes video highlights the survey findings.

As a boomer, the 49% figure does not surprise me. In my work with this generational cohort I have learned that many boomers have not substantively planned for their “retirement.” Thus, the post title. Are you part of the 49%, or one of the 51% who don’t yet have a retirement lifestyle plan? As an extension to this finding I find myself thinking, Why not a lifestyle plan for anyone, at any life stage?

Jennifer Marchetti is the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for BH&GRE. She was my guest on this week’s Awakening to Awareness Radio Show. On the program, Jen discussed a wide range of matters significant to boomers including: a new definition for retirement; why boomers are pursuing their passions; two views on empty nesters; how boomers are repurposing their living space and; the amazing optimism of this generation who have served as economic drivers for much of their lives.

Also not surprising, as members of the “sandwich generation,” boomers are strong enablers for following generations. They intend to stay active whether continuing to work, volunteering, returning to school (to learn or teach!), as travelers and/or as emerging Encore Entrepreneurs.

The show podcast is linked here, for those interested in listening.

The Value in Frugal

“The longer you work the more money you’ll have for retirement. But the longer you work, the less time you’ll have to enjoy that retirement.” ~ The Wall Street Journal

The retirement conundrum. Now or later? I was talking with one of my sisters the other day about retirement financial planning. I shared with her that I had pretty much mapped out how I intended to tap financial sources and fund my retirement – when I get there. There is considerable uncertainty in world markets and economic conditions, that even well crafted plans could be turned inside out. Still, I recognize the value in creating a plan and factoring for variables and change.

Intentionally, I have lived frugally for the last decade. It’s a simple lifestyle that I’ve chosen. I haven’t deprived myself, yet I haven’t lived my past, extravagant life. If you have a large nest egg and/or a generous pension to look forward to, then choosing frugality may not be necessary. For many, however, “pinching pennies” now is both conscientious and a prudent habit to have.

In the past 18 months I’ve engaged friends and colleagues in conversations about living frugally – as one plans for retirement and once retired. What I am learning is that there is a wide spectrum across which people plan and do not plan for their retirement. And for some of them, the concept of living frugally hasn’t factored into their current lifestyle. They either don’t need to or they just don’t know the value of money and what inflation does to it, at increasing rates, over time. Or, they don’t know value at all.

I’ve heard some interesting ideas from those already retired. A recurring theme is: begin to shift your lifestyle well before you retire, even if it’s just visualizing things differently. There are plenty of qualitative aspects to retired life that don’t cost a lot. And there are other facets where you might want to freely spend some of your nest egg. After all, living comfortably contributes significantly to one’s wellness.

The list of frugal possibilities seems endless. Here are three considerations for those already retired or for those who are still planning for life’s next act:

  1. Get what you can for free. And that’s plenty. Public libraries rent out not only books and movies, but they also run lots of free programs including lectures. Parks hold concerts for free and colleges frequently allow those aged 55+ to audit classes for free. You won’t earn credits toward a degree, but you will learn some new things.
  2. Swap and trade are words to live by. Offer your guest room to out-of-town visitors and you’ll feel better asking to use theirs. Use a home-swapping service when you visit new places. Trade your plumbing skills with a house painter. The one commodity that retirement gives everyone is time. Barter it for the lifestyle you want.
  3. Boats are things belonging to friends. To state the obvious, you can always rent a boat for a day of sailing or a weekend at sea. Let your boat-owning friends know that you’re “thinking” of buying one and ask if they would mind taking you out for the day? Most boat owners love to show off their toys. Many boat owners say the guests they like are the ones who stick around long enough after the day to help clean up and secure the vessel.

Social Media for Boomers

“Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.” ~ Brian Sollis

Put away that cozy image of the little old lady knitting a sweater for the grandkids, or the distinguished gentlemen playing chess in the park, because the newest elder generation is not going to sit quietly in a rocking chair. This according to Brian Profitt in his ReadWriteWeb article, “Why Boomers Won’t Release Their Grip on Technology.”

In August, 2013 the Pew Research Center on Retirement released a report with some fascinating statistics on social media among Americans 50 and older:

  • 60% of people in the 50-64 year age group, which is most of the boomer population, are now on at least one social media site.
  • Facebook is by far the most popular social media site for this age group.
  • Baby boomers spend 27 hours per week online, which is two hours more per week than those who are between 16 and 34.

My guest on this week’s Awakening to Awareness radio show was Carol McManus, America’s LinkedIn Lady. A self-described ‘recovering corporate executive,’ Carol left the comfort of the corporate cocoon (in 2007) after 26 years and reinvented herself as a coach, consultant and leadership trainer. In a few short years, her speaking and consulting requests shifted to social media because everyone wanted to know how she did what she did and how they could replicate her success for their own business.

                            Carol McManus

Carol McManus

On the show, Carol made it clear that this generational cohort was not heading “out to pasture” and that they are increasingly making use of social media for multiple purposes. She highlighted Facebook and LinkedIn as the two platforms most likely used by boomers and told listeners why. Not surprisingly, Facebook is the account of choice for those interested in connecting or reconnecting and rekindling relationships. And LinkedIn for business connections. Carol talked about online privacy, managing your own social media, stepping into one’s technology fears and why to avoid Twitter.

It was an enlightening and informative interview. You can listen to the podcast on iTunes here or on the Awakening to Awareness show page by clicking here.

Focusing on Self-Reliance

“People who cannot invent themselves must be content with borrowed postures, secondhand ideas, fitting in instead of standing out.” ~ Warren G. Bennis

On last week’s (10/29) Awakening to Awareness Radio Show, my guest, Bob Grassberger, Ph.D., talked about several issues and related opportunities for Baby Boomers heading into retirement. I thought I’d continue the thread that he kicked off, which included Encore Careers, Lifelong Learning, and Entrepreneurship.

Bob alluded that just because boomers want to work during their retirement years doesn’t mean they’ll find a job. About two-thirds of older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, according to a survey by AARP. Increasingly, boomers are getting around that problem by working for themselves. In 2011, individuals aged 55 to 64 accounted for nearly 21% of new entrepreneurs, up from 14.3% in 1996, reports the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. I find this fascinating and encouraging.

Intellectual curiosity isn’t limited to the young. Across the U.S., colleges and universities are designing programs for boomers who want to learn a language or read all those books they put aside when their kids were born. Through a program funded by the Bernard Osher Foundations, more than 100 colleges and universities offer noncredit courses for students age 50 and older.

Community colleges, meanwhile, are reaching out to boomers who want to update their job skills. The American Association of Community Colleges’ Plus 50 Initiative help community colleges create or expand programs targeted at students age 50 and older, particularly those who want to prepare for a new career.

Challenging the conventional wisdom which held that boomers are only concerned about the present, another AARP study finds strong evidence that they have actually focused quite a lot on the prospect of retirement. A strong majority of boomers (72%) say they have given a lot or at least some thought to their retirement years, Baby Boomers’ definition of their retirement seems to include a large measure of self-reliance. It is worthy to note that two-thirds of boomers are satisfied with the amount of money they are putting away today for retirement.

In the July 19, 2013 issue of The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Retirement Weekly Editor Robert Powell wrote on “Creating your ‘retirement vision’.” It’s an informative story that talks about tasks that pre-retirees ought to complete before officially leaving their working lives behind. The piece serves as a useful checklist.

If the notion of self-reliance resonates and you’re interested in listening to my Bob Grassberger interview, the free podcast can be downloaded here. Looking for some retirement planning starters, consider these three:

  • Know your boundaries. It is inevitable that people will decide that since you are retired, you have extra time and extra resources. With this in mind, understand that if you are willing to do whatever, someone will let you. Set your own agenda and do so before you are asked. Learn to say “no” and mean it. You can learn to say it nicely and still get your point across.
  • Make life plans. It is important to plan for the non-financial aspect of retirement by considering what will make you happy. Tackle what you’ve always dreamed of doing. Make a life plan and kick-off your experiences as you move forward.
  • Consider what retiree Pia Louise advises: Give up regrets. “I almost destroyed myself over things I cannot change. I’ve reinvented myself. I do not think on the past anymore,” she says. “I’m so present in my life — I went from a zero to a ten. It took some time but I could not be happier.” “You’ve come this far, be who you dream you want to be!”

Approaching Retirement

“Retirement has been a discovery of beauty for me. I never had the time before to notice the beauty of my grandkids, my wife, the tree outside my very own front door. And the beauty of time itself.” ~ Hartman Jule

Mea culpa. In yesterday’s post I mentioned taking a break. I poorly communicated my intention. What I meant was in that specific post (about phobias), I was going to depart from my blogging categories and posting style. Some of you were kind to wish me well on my ‘sabbatical’ which was not where I was heading. You can’t get rid of me that easily. 🙂

A recent New York Times blog listed six benefits of aging and these are not exclusive to the negative stereotype of those in their 70’s and older:

  • Tranquility
  • The cooling of passion
  • Submission to what you cannot control
  • Willingness to be strong
  • Increased appreciation and gratitude
  • The love of family

How wonderful it is to become comfortable with ourselves and others.

Baby Boomers or “the sandwich generation” to some, are definitely reinventing retirement in response to the particular challenges faced as they simultaneously manage their own aging with taking care of their children and their parents. These are no small tasks and there is no ‘right’ way to retire. Everyone has to cut their own personal path and many of us are.

Perhaps surprising to some (many?), getting older actually has been proven to have its own set of health benefits. Researchers have found that:

  • Happiness improves with age. A recent study from the University of Warwick in England surveyed 10,000 people in the U.S. and Britain. The found that the more people aged, the highest levels of happiness with their lives was found in the older respondents. Researchers evaluated quality of life based on eight different mental and physical health factors.
  • Say goodbye to migraines. If you suffer from debilitating migraines, relief may be in sight. Migraines lessen with age according to the Headache Center in Atlanta. The study found that people who were older than 50 got “less acute migraine attacks” than their younger counterparts and symptoms as nausea and light sensitivity decreased with age.
  • Your brain works better. (This finding surprised me, too.) We all know forgetfulness is part of the territory with aging, but parts of the brain actually improve with age. The older you get the better you are to problem solve and understand arguments, according to Barbara Strauch in her well-researched book The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain. Strauch also found that judgment also improves with age, as does the ability to make financial decisions.

Don’t ever think you are too young to start thinking about aging and the effects it’ll have on your mind and body. The healthier you are now and the more positive your attitude is about moving toward retirement (because you are!), the healthier you’ll be then. Don’t let age affect the way you view yourself on either the inside or the outside.

Encore Careers

 

For the boomer community (as well as GenX’rs!), my next Tuesday (10/29/13) Awakening to Awareness Radio Show is sure to stimulate your interest buds. If you want to learn how to navigate seemingly endless “what’s next” choices and seek more information about the show, click here and then tune in at 8:00pm Eastern time (U.S.).

The show and my guest will address what you can begin to think about as you approach life’s “Third Act,” as well as how to tap into vast resources that are available to you for your consideration and future planning.

A Time of Reinvention

“There is a fountain of youth: it is in your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will have truly defeated age.” ~ Sophia Loren

When people talk about retirement, they often think of financial issues. But psychologist Nancy Schlossberg likes to get people to think of retirement as a career change because not only are you leaving something, you are about to begin something new. Dr. Schlossberg found many factors that contribute to helping people negotiate retirement transitions. In her research, she identified six ways in which adults approached retirement:

  • Continuers who continue using existing skills and interests.
  • Adventurers who start entirely new endeavors.
  • Searchers who explore new options through trial and error.
  • Easy Gliders who enjoy unscheduled time letting each day unfold.
  • Involved Spectators who care deeply about the world, but engage in less active ways.
  • Retreaters who take time out or disengage from life.

What I find interesting in similar studies and surveys is the alignment of a specific age (or ages) with traditional retirement. Yet aging does not always equal retiring. Aging does not mean people drift quietly off to the sidelines while younger generations take over. Some Baby Boomers may want or need to work less, or to have more flexible working arrangements, but don’t many of us need that at different life stages?

For your consideration, additional findings specific to reinventing one’s self:

  • Instead of slowing down, 57% of Baby Boomers view retirement as a time of new beginnings. 51% indicated that they want to launch a whole new career when they retire. As a Professional Coach (and boomer), I find that percentage encouraging!
  • Although preretirees said having a reliable income stream is what they would miss about ‘working,’ retirees reported that lost social connections associated with work were what they missed most.
  • Nearly half (45%) of the boomers surveyed said they needed help deciding on the best place to live in retirement and 40% needed help finding housing or eldercare arrangements for their parents.

When you find yourself planning for or entering retirement reinvention, here are three tips:

  1. Let go. Make the decision to let go of what’s not working in your life. Identify your biggest stressors and issues that are preventing your from living a significant and fulfilling “Third Act.” Leave the agonizing to the 30 years olds and make a move. Trust your intuition, turn up the volume to your passions, and listen to what is speaking to you.
  2. Take small steps. If you’re thinking about making a huge change, especially a risky one, you may want to start off slowly. If it’s going to take a toll on your wallet, don’t take it lightly. Consider doing little things that scare you, accomplish them, and then develop a belief that you can do bigger things. There are many introductory ways to get a taste of something.
  3. Remember you’re in great company. At age 30, Julia Child was a government spy and Andrea Bocelli was a lawyer. Enjoy a list of famous people in the ‘wrong’ jobs earlier in their lives here.

Endings or Beginnings?

“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.” ~ Alan Cohen

A new study of Americans aged 45+ found that instead of slowing down, 57% view retirement as a time of new beginnings, and half want to launch a whole new career!

Retirement is about new beginnings (and lots of uncertainty) for baby boomers. A January 2013 study of 6,300 Americans conducted by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave found that individuals preferred “reinvention” over traditional retirement, peace of mind over wealth accumulation, and view longer life expectancies as a chance to explore new options and/or pursue old dreams.

From a financial planning perspective, one of the more eye-opening findings was that achieving peace of mind was seven times more important to respondents that accumulating wealth (88% versus 12% respectively). The more than 70 million baby boomers that will begin to retire in the next decade will transform the notion of retirement. Their very numbers will force a rethinking of what retirement means and how people will live their lives. These numbers force us to identify those critical factors that will define a “healthy” retirement.

But don’t tell Baby Boomers that they are old (because I’m not 🙂 ). According to a Pew Research Survey, the typical boomer believes that old age does not begin until age 72. Also, while about half of all adults say they feel younger than their actual age, fully 61% of boomers are feeling more spry than their age would imply. In fact, the typical boomer feels nine years younger than his or her chronological age.

If you’re a boomer, you probably know a thing or two about reinvention. For college professors, the mantra has been “publish or perish.” For boomers, it’s “reinvent and survive.” As boomers move through life, they are tempted to want to have everything under control. Unfortunately, that strategy is a straight road to boredom. Being a beginner until the day you die is an important aspect of creating an interesting and invigorating life. Besides, beginnings are rarely controlled situations.

As you entertain new beginnings, keep the following in mind:

  • Beginnings involve going in the wrong direction. When you start something new, even if you have a full set of instructions (like comparable life experience), you make mistakes because the whole idea is new and a challenge to grasp. Wrong turns help define the context of what you’re doing and help make it work well.
  • Beginnings usually involve a few restarts. Thinking that it’s going to be smooth sailing from the get-go invites frustration. Redirects are inevitable. Sometimes you don’t even know where you are trying to go when you start out. Don’t get torqued about it. Starting something new takes courage. Seeing something through takes patience and tolerance. 🙂
  • Beginnings often don’t look like beginnings. Starting in a new direction is often disguised as something old ending. What you had worked hard for was not something you wanted to change. The old reliable version of life was…well…yours. Letting go and stepping into the unknown of a new start is the only way to begin the next chapter of your life.

Go Grandma Moses!

“Musicians don’t retire, they stop when there’s no more music in them.” ~ Louis Armstrong

In a recent post (The Third Age), I referenced five distinct stages that people experience before and during retirement. I shared that I’d further elaborate on the fourth stage, Reorientation, in a subsequent post. Welcome to the continuation.

The previously referenced study uncovered four distinct experiences within the Reorientation (covering two to 15 years after retirement) stage of the journey:

Empowered Reinventors (19%): This is a time of adventure, new challenges and fulfillment.

Carefree Contents (19%): This group is a time of adjusting to a less frantic lifestyle without the stress of work and other responsibilities. Eight out of 10 said they weren’t working at all.

Uncertain Searchers (22%): This segment is one of mixed feelings – they’re still trying to figure out what to do with this time of their lives, and may not be on track financially for retirement.

Worried Strugglers (40%): This cohort has the most difficulty due to a lack of planning and preparation. Most have not given much thought to what they want to do with their retirement years.

Among pre-retirees and retirees with retirement experience, one of the main discoveries was that both groups found that retirement is liberation from the daily grind, which gives them more control over their lives.

Enter this legend…

When Anna Mary Robertson Moses died in 1961 at age 101, then-president Kennedy released a statement praising her paintings for inspiring a nation. This amazing lady was better known as Grandma Moses, a woman who didn’t begin to paint until the age of 76, when her hands became too crippled by arthritis to hold an embroidery needle. She found herself unable to sit around and do nothing, even after a long life spent working on farms.

Grandma Moses never had any formal art training – indeed, she’d had very little formal education – but she painted every day, turning out more than 1,000 paintings in 25 years. When an art collector passing through her town saw the paintings selling for a few dollars in a drug store, he bought them all and arranged for them to be shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Even with her newfound fame, her topics remained the same: nostalgic scenes of farm life, such as the first snow or a maple sugaring. By the time of her death, she had paintings in museums as far away as Vienna and Paris.

Take what you will from the above, perhaps the obvious: 1) It’s a good idea to begin planning for retirement (or whatever you choose to call your later years lifestyle) well before you get to that stage and; 2) Who says you need to quietly drift off to the sidelines once you enter the third chapter in your life? If Grandma Moses discovered a new, enjoyable niche, you certainly can (or will).